The Friday starts like any other. Wake up at 6:30 a.m., eat a hearty breakfast and meet on the bus ride to school. Tahj Telfair and Joe Jordan sit through school, unconcerned with learning the derivative of a logarithm, but instead think of what awaits after school. Because on Fridays, it’s gameday.
“I like to listen to music all day,” Joe said. “[On game days] I don’t pay much attention to my classes, I just have my headphones in all day. For pre-game, I play around [with the football] a little, but mostly I focus on the game.”
This pair agrees support from family and friends help them stay grounded. They have both earned a football scholarship to Iowa Western Community College.
“They both have the same passion for football, so it’s ironic they’re going to the same college,” Lauryn Miller, senior, said. “With their friendship, it seems almost like a fairytale that they’re going to the same school.”
Many students may know Tahj and Joe as star athletes, though they wonder if outsiders perceive them as stereotypical jocks. But Tahj and Joe’s close friends and teachers see a different side of them.
“Sometimes athletes who tend to be very aggressive and assertive might [behave] like that in the classroom,” Sharon Taysi, science teacher, said. “[Tahj] is not like that. He’s kind and gentle, like a gentle giant. I think that’s a real strength for an athlete to be able to find that balance, and that’s probably what makes him so successful.”
Tahj said he thinks the stigma around athletes is unfair. Both Joe and Tahj have hobbies and interests outside of football, but because football is such a prominent part of their lives, many people think it is all they do.
“People perceive me as ‘an athlete,’ which is kind of true, kind of not true,” Tahj said. “I’m really a loving person. I have to be reminded that your talent isn’t all that you have, you have to use your brains. Listening to that, I would say, is what [keeps me motivated].”
Tahj and Joe said juggling classes, sports, friends and family is tiring, but they are devoted to making the best of the challenges each day brings. These best friends hope they are more than the public eye sees and through it all, try to find an appropriate balance between work and play.
“Being so serious [about school] helped [Tahj and Joe] focus more on football because it’s what they found their path through,” Lauryn said. “That drive will be channeled into whatever career they go into, but that intense passion will filter out into the rest of their lives.”